Creepy Series Starter. This one has a more rare premise than any detective story I’ve ever encountered: Set in Utah, the lead detective here was raised in the polygamous – and heretical, according to current LDS doctrine as I understand it – branch of the Church of Latter Day Saints, aka Mormons. Her squad is sent in to deal with particularly sensitive investigations primarily involving this group, and in this particular case actively involving her former family. Which is interesting enough, but then you get into the truly creepier/ seedier side of humanity generally and this particular sect specifically, and it gets truly… icky, let’s go with. There is a LOT of crazy to unpack here, and a lot of childhood trauma for our lead detective to try to handle in the process. Overall the mystery itself is solid, but this is clearly yet another in the police procedural genre where you’re coming into this for the team/ personal dynamics as much as for any given mystery, and Roberts does a great job of setting that up and setting it in motion. The *one* criticism is that our lead Detective is constantly referred to as “Detective Sergeant”, which is a British position and not an American one, at least per my own knowledge of American policing. (Which in some areas is quite extensive, but admittedly exact ranks within departments and peculiarities among States in those ranks is not one of them. It is *possible* that this rank exists in Utah and I am simply unaware of it, and it is a minor detail anyway, though one that can throw the reader out of the book when encountered.) Overall an interesting tale well told, and I’ll be looking forward to the next book in this series. Very much recommended.
Complicated Yet Beautiful. Hawker has a way of painting pictures with words that are utterly beautiful, and yet also utterly ugly at the same time. Ultimately, this book reads like a more evocative, more painting quality version of the somewhat similar story David Duchovny created in Truly Like Lightning, even as it seems that both authors were working on these works for quite a number of years. Particularly in their showing of the worse sides of Mormon life, complete with overbearing and hypocritical fathers, this reads almost like as much an attack on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as the character study that it is. And yet, again, the way Hawker executes it here is utterly beautiful in its prose and storytelling. Hawker sucks you in, weaving these plot threads near and around each other before bringing them all together to grand effect. Ultimately the biggest quibble with this entire effort isn’t Hawker’s writing, but the actual description of the book – which leads one to believe certain aspects arguably happen sooner than they do. Indeed, Linda becoming “privy to a secret Aran and Tamsin share that could dismantle everything everyone holds dear” happens quite late (later than 80%, maybe even closer to the 90% mark), though again, the actual execution here is quite solid and indeed allows the book to end in surprising ways that were only very subtly hinted at much earlier. Even Aran and Lucy getting together to begin with seems to happen much later in the tale than the description seems to indicate, though that relationship *is* particularly well developed. Ultimately this is a book that Mormons likely won’t like, people with various misconceptions about Mormonism will probably tout, but one that tells a remarkable tale in the end. Recommended.
Nothing Technically Wrong, Readers May Hate It Anyway. This is one of those books by a master storyteller that is at once too cerebral *and* too cliche. It is overall a good story, but there is so much to *not* like here. From the hard core leftist politics that get pretty damn preachy (including several anti-Trump diatribes blaming him for all the ills that have been present in this country since its Founding) to … other events of a personal nature that get too close to spoilery territory to reveal. And yet there is nothing technically wrong here. The story is well edited, it flows well within its frame, it is reasonably researched (and then flung out to left field, X-Files style – though not to a scifi level), the characters are reasonable within the boundaries described in the book (though in real life many of their actions would leave an observer scratching their heads). Ultimately there is enough here to warrant reading the story – and enough here that no matter your politics, you’re probably going to want to throw it down in disgust. And yet there is no objective “this is bad” thing to hang removal of so much as a single star on. And thus, this book is recommended.
Solid Christian HS Story. Hale does an excellent job here of showing the all-too-real mindset of Southern Baptist HS kids as it relates to the Church of Latter Day Saints, at minimum circa the turn of the Millenium when I was in HS myself. While I never actually went to a private school myself, growing up in Ga not far from the Tennessee regions described here, Hale paints the pictures pretty dang accurately there from both the kid and adult perspectives. Solid introduction to a much larger story, by the time of the somewhat abrupt ending to this particular tale, you’ll be invested and interested enough to want to have the next one handy. Very much recommended.
(And as a postscript not overly relevant to this book perse, reading it completely on the beach was awesome, though reading it immediately after the much-more-mature-oriented book I had read earlier in the day I started this one was very interesting, to say the least. :D)